Race Recap: Zooma Chicago Half Marathon.

Race Recap: Zooma Chicago Half Marathon.

As I was working out my marathon training plan, I saw I needed a half marathon the weekend of August 10-11. I knew there weren’t any around West Michigan, but after a quick Google search, I saw that the ZOOMA women’s race series had an August 10 half in Chicago. I was even more excited when Stina was on board to join me for the half, and Kelly for the 10k (her first!).

I headed down to the city on Friday afternoon, driving to Michigan City, Indiana, and taking the commuter train the rest of the way. Unless you need a car in the city or have a place to park, it’s the superior way to get to Chicago because you can avoid the heavy city traffic, but more importantly, the expensive parking rates. Kelly met me at the train station and we headed to the hotel until Stina got out of work. We headed over to the expo, which had a couple booths but was relatively small.  We got cute reusable bags, shirts, and yoga mats, and water bottles for swag.  The shirts are super cute, but mine is a bit short, so I’ll probably never wear it to workout.  While we were at the expo, we met up with Aundra.  For dinner, we headed to Sweetwater Tavern and Grille, which is right on Michigan Avenue, north of Millennium Park.  I had the pesto penne which was quite heavy on the garlic (yum!) and the Anti-Hero IPA from Revolution Brewing.

sweetwater pesto penne

After dinner, we headed back to our respective hotels for an early bedtime.  The race started at 7am and we were at Montrose Harbor as the sun was coming up over Lake Michigan.  I’m so accustomed to the Lake Michigan sunsets, it was weird to be on the other side of the lake!  It sure did make for some beautiful scenery as we waited for the race to start.


Tired runners…and the race hadn’t even started yet!


I was a bit nervous going into this race.  My knee and hip were still bothering me off and on, and the pain was definitely on Friday night.  I took some Advil and said a prayer that everything would be okay in the morning.  I was still a little uncomfortable as we toed the starting line, but was just going to do the best I could do.  I told myself if I was in as much pain as I was the last half in Chicago, I needed to stop.  It wasn’t going to be worth the finish if that meant making the pain worse.

Right at 7am, we headed off.  Stina and I started out together, maintaing a very solid pace, right around a 10 minute mile.  I knew we were probably starting out too fast, but I also knew that I was just going to get slower at the end, no matter what pace I started out at, so I wanted to build up some time while I could.  I can do negative splits during a 5k, or even a really awesome 10k, but I’m not at the point where I can make that happen during a half marathon.  We hit the first water station right around mile two, and they were consistently about every 1-1.5 miles from that point on, which was great.  They had Cytomax along with the water, but since I’ve never had it before, I stuck with the good old H2O.

The majority of the race covered the Lakefront Trail, which made for some beautiful sights as we were sandwiched between the expanse of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline; during the times when we were headed south, the Sears Tower glistened in the distance.   It was an open course, so it wasn’t just those of us racing who were on the trail.  There were others out running, many clearly geared up for long runs, but there also a bunch of cyclists.  I don’t think they were too excited about a thousand or so runners on their trail.  I had a couple come a little too close for comfort.  I would have been okay not finishing because of my knee, but I would NOT have been okay had it been because I got taken out by a cyclist.  Fortunately nothing happened.  Since there were only about 1,000 runners total between the half and the 10k, having the open course kept things from feeling lonely, which was nice.

The first few miles went by really fast.  Stina and I were passing people left and right, which is always a nice feeling!  I’m still used to being the one getting passed, so it’s nice to be on the opposite side of that (although I made up for it in the last few miles).  Because of how the course was set up, we were seeing the mile markers for the last few miles during this point, which was kind of discouraging to know I would be looping these same spots again in a couple hours.

Around 4.5 miles, Stina told me I could go on ahead if I wanted.  We stuck together for a little while longer, but soon enough, I was running my own race.  I was still feeling really great at this point and kept up a consistent pace.  I took my first Gu right around mile 4, and could feel as it started kicking in, fortunately, just as I was starting to fade.  Although I had been certain I didn’t have a PR in me for this race, as I hit the halfway point of the race, I realized I just might be able to pull it off.  My pace backed off a bit, but knowing that I had built up some time in the first half, I wasn’t too concerned.  I was feeling really great, mentally and physically, still.

Not long after I passed the 8 mile marker, things started to fall apart a little.  I was slowing down more than I wanted, and although it was only around 70 degrees with a nice little breeze, the heat from the rising sun was starting to wear me down.  I was so thankful for every shaded section we ran through because it was a welcomed break from the sun.  It was right around this point that I realized the odds of the PR were fading fast.  I had been running without music up until this point, but put my earbuds in, hoping that would be an extra little boost.

Remember how we saw the 10 mile maker during the first half of the race?  Well, in the second half, I never saw it.  I thought it was a little odd, but didn’t give it too much thought until I came up to the 11 mile sign, and my Garmin said I was only around 10.8 miles.  Up until that point, my Garmin and the mile markers were pretty closely matching.  There were a lot of twists and turns in the course, so I can’t help but think there was something misrouted, leading runners to take a shorter course than they should have.  I remembered Theodora writing about the same issue during their Annapolis race, so deep down, I wasn’t really surprised.

It was also at this point that I knew any hope of a PR was out the window.  I was still doing pretty okay physically, but mentally, I started to shut down.  All of a sudden, my heart just wasn’t in it.  I knew that I would finish and I didn’t really care how long it took me anymore, so I walked more than I probably really needed to.  I was just over it and wanted to be done, which is so far from my usual attitude during races.  I saw the 2:20 pace group go past me in the last mile or so, and my first reaction was “oh hell no,” so I kicked it into high gear and got right back around them.  That motivation lasted for a few minutes, but not enough to keep them behind me.


Mile 1: 10:03
Mile 2: 10:07
Mile 3: 10:18
Mile 4: 10:07
Mile 5: 10:13
Mile 6: 10:14
Mile 7: 10:39
Mile 8: 10:46
Mile 9: 11:05
Mile 10: 11:10
Mile 11: 11:39
Mile 12: 11:31
Mile .95: 11:11

I finished in 2:19:06 per my chip, making it my second fastest half marathon, even counting the fact that it was a short course at 12.95 miles.  Damn close, but no cigar.  I came in 448/689 overall and 96/147 in my age group.  There was a good sized post-race party, including yoga and bubbly, but we skipped that.

Short course aside, there were a couple other minor negatives for me. There was a publicized shuttle from the Langham, which was the host hotel for the race. Rates for the rooms there were a bit steep, so we opted for the nearby Hyatt, which was notably more affordable. In the days leading up to the race, they put a disclaimer that the shuttle was available only for hotel guests.  We decided to try to get the shuttle anyhow, but they were checking room keys as people got on the bus.  There were cabs right there waiting, so it wasn’t the total end of the world, but just a minor irritation since they could have stated this much more clearly from the start. I don’t know that it would have changed where we stayed, but we could have been a bit more prepared for the $20 cab far, and gotten a little more sleep since we had to be at the hotel for the shuttle by 6am.  Runners who registered before June 2, which I did, were supposed to receive a bonus training package. I never got one.  I don’t really need more stuff, but don’t incentivize me to sign up before a certain date and never follow through.

Despite my few minor complaints, I think they’re all easy fixes.  Given that it’s ZOOMA’s inaugural race in Chicago, there are bound to be some kinks.  I would definitely consider running this one again!

6 thoughts on “Race Recap: Zooma Chicago Half Marathon.”

  • Hooray for finishing! It was great meeting up with you guys…can’t wait for Healthy Living Summit in a month!

    And re: the course…yes. ZOOMA courses are notorious for not being fully marked. In Annapolis, many of us even ended up going the wrong way and running almost an extra mile. But it’s all worth it/good when you cross that finish line, right?

  • Loved reading your re-cap! I was looking for reviews of the race because I also am pretty sure that the course got messed up along the way and wanted to see if I was the only one who thought so. I also never passed mile marker 7, we veered back onto the inside path instead of the lake, which I think added distance if anything, but I couldn’t believe how poorly the whole thing was marked! When re-checking the map just now I see we were supposed to run around the tennis courts, which wasn’t marked at all! For such an expensive race I wish there had been more course marshals to make sure we all were going the right way. Not sure I’ll spend my money on a zooma run again, but it was a beautiful morning for a race.

  • I think you had a great run!! Congrats! Bummer that the event wasn’t 100% for you. I did ZOOMA Great Lakes up in Lake Geneva last fall and it was perfect – like one of my favorite races ever… challenging hills were the only downfall, but I loved the “event”. Sorry CHI was not as impressive for you. 🙁

  • I missed the mile 10 sign too! I was having tummy issues so pretty drained by the end. I assumed that I was delirious and just passed by it without noticing. My watch read the course as short too, despite my running OFF course to hit a random potty by a marina in Lincoln Park.

    Great job!!!

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